SINK OR SWIM Cinema's Legacy


Following the screening, watch a special conversation with director Su Friedrich moderated by AFI Festivals Programmer Malin Kan.

In Su Friedrich’s canonical autobiographical documentary, she returns to a childhood memory: her father has thrown her into the deep end of a pool to teach her to swim. Imbued with a disorienting combination of fear and admiration and a desperation for approval, their complex relationship unravels into 26 vignettes, revisiting her parents’ tumultuous separation, their traumas and her own sexual awakening. Incorporating home movies, archival material and contemporary footage to draw curious connections, Friedrich constructs poetic contradictions between the fragmented, remembered past and her adult development, exposing the shaky ground on which identity is constructed. Now inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, Friedrich’s formally rigorous and emotionally charged masterpiece SINK OR SWIM (1990) is a landmark in personal documentary. –Malin Kan

Continue the conversation on DOCS Connect, with filmmaker in attendance to respond to your questions, here.

Su Friedrich has directed 23 films since 1978, which have been featured in retrospectives at film festivals and major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art. The films have been widely screened at film festivals, universities and art centers – and have been extensively written about and won numerous awards. She teaches at Princeton University.


Country: USA

Year: 1990

Director: Su Friedrich

Director of Photography: Su Friedrich

Editor: Su Friedrich

Featuring: Jessica Lynn

Running Time (minutes): 48

Language: English

Accessibility: Closed Captions Available